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ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) _ Free beer flowed at a new Hooters restaurant that opened despite opposition from residents who fear its scantily clad waitresses will corrupt the youth and attract sexual predators.

Although it doesn't have a permit to sell beer, the new Hooters in Arlington made sure its opening wasn't a bust by offering up to two free beers to customers over 21 on Wednesday. The eatery can give away all the beer it wants without a license, but can't sell it.

``We have a right to be here, and we're not going away,'' said Scott Wilkinson, vice president of Texas Wings, the franchise that runs 27 Hooters restaurants in Texas.

The Hooters brouhaha started last year when the national chain famous for waitresses clad in low-cut tank tops and tight shorts announced plans to build a restaurant in Arlington.

That prompted residents to form a group called Decency for Arlington and obtain more than 1,300 signatures to derail the restaurant's beer license application. Hooters sued after being denied a permit and is waiting on a judge's decision on its appeal to get a license.

The inaugural lunch crowd Wednesday included some local firefighters whose T-shirts read: ``Mr. Zedler, I am not a sexual predator.''

Bill Zedler, a Republican state representative candidate, formed Decency for Arlington last summer to keep the new Hooters from opening in a shopping area in a heavily residential district. The group has said Hooters' atmosphere could corrupt students at the nearby high school _ and attract sex offenders.

``I wouldn't want my wife to go to (the nearby drug store) to fill a prescription late at night because of the kind of men she might run into in the parking lot,'' said Barry D. Johnson, the group's co-chairman.

Opposition is nothing new to the restaurant chain, founded in Florida in 1983 with the motto ``delightfully tacky, yet unrefined.''

In fact, a Hooters in Frisco was besieged by protests in 2000 after it offered free beer for a few weeks until its beer license was approved. The eatery now has more customers on ``kids eat free'' Saturdays than any other Hooters in Texas.

Texas Wings runs 27 Hooters restaurants in the state, including another one in Arlington, the state's seventh-largest city with more than 330,000 residents.

Hooters of America Inc. in Atlanta doesn't deny that sex appeal is part of the gimmick of its 300-plus restaurants nationwide, but Wilkinson said the eatery has ``cleaned up'' its image in recent years by catering to families and sponsoring community little-league teams.

``When you compare Hooters to what people see at swimming pools, sporting events with cheerleaders and magazine racks at any grocery store _ give me a break,'' Wilkinson said.

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On the Net:

Hooters of Texas: http://www.hooterstexas.com

Hooters: http://www.hootersofamerica.com